Lone high school player Gozum overwhelmed in presence of Gilas stars
In the company of the best basketball players in the country, Will Gozum was left in awe in the company of the best basketball players in the country on Monday at Meralco Gym.
“I was starstruck,” Gozum said in Filipino after working out with the big names like Troy Rosario, Japeth Aguilar, Mac Belo, and Carl Bryan Cruz.
“I’m still feeling my way with the plays, trying to figure it out because they already have a smooth transition. I’m just trying to keep up and it’s exhausting.”
But the lone high school player to attend the resumption of the Gilas Pilipinas practices rightfully deserved his spot thanks to all of his efforts this past season.
Gozum, who was named NCAA Season 93 MVP after averaging 13.8 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks for Mapua High School, has emerged as one of the most promising big men in the country. And that piqued the interest of coach Chot Reyes, who included the 18-year-old bruiser in his “23-for-23” list.
Despite all of his efforts, Gozum admitted he was still caught by surprise with the call-up for a chance to represent the Philippines again after suiting up in the 2015 Fiba Asia Under-16 Championship in Indonesia.
“I was so happy. I immediately told my parents that I’m back at Gilas and I won’t waste this chance. Coach Chot invited me to come here and that alone is already an honor for me. I just promise that I’ll give my best and hopefully, I get picked,” he said.
Now comes the hard part for the 6-foot-6 center as he tests his mettle against Gilas mainstays like June Mar Fajardo, Calvin Abueva, and Raymond Almazan weekly — a challenge that he’s more than ready to face.
“Coach Chot said that what Gilas needs are players with high basketball IQ. You can’t make the same mistakes over and over again, and I realized that I have to learn from the others who are doing it right,” he said.
“As a high school player, I know that what I’m working on isn’t enough so I’m motivating myself to reach the same level as to that of my teammates here who are already in college.”
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